Saturday, June 30, 2012
Salt water eats everything. On the way north from Florida, the lights on my trailer failed one by one. By the time I got home all that was working was a single parking light.
After a half hearted attempt to get them running again, I decided to replace everything. A set of trailer lights only runs about $30, so it wasn’t too bad. I’m glad I did. All the wires hidden inside the tow bar had been spliced -badly. Salt water did the rest.
The trailer is all wired and so is the hitch on the van. It’s ready to go.
Now all I have to do is to wait for weather and our schedule to line up. Sailing on my little lake is fun and all, but it’s nice to go places where I haven’t seen everything a zillion times.
I’m thinking a day trip to a large wilderness lake 25 miles away would be a good first trip. That’s far enough to test the new trailer/van combination, but not too far from home.
In other news, some new friends of ours just purchased a Cape Dory 27. They had a really nice Flicka, but lost it in a storm. I blogged about it over a year ago. Now they have this new boat and took it up the Hudson River to Lake Champlain near their VT home. Along the way the wife ran into a friend and was offered a 2 year contract job in China. She took the job and won’t be sailing that Cape Dory until that contract is up. Life takes interesting turns.
My lovely wife and I are planning next winter’s sailing adventures. There are some places we’d like to return to on Florida’s Gulf coast. We’d also love to spend a decent amount of time sailing the Florida Keys. We only had a small taste two years ago and would love to really sail the area this time.
With a trailer sailer, it’s possible to sample a lot of different sailing areas. When people with big boats ask how fast my little boat is, I say it can do 60 knots against the wind. (on the trailer)
On the spur of the moment, my lovely wife and I decided on a two hour drive to have lunch with a friend.
We go back a long long way and we’ve kept in touch over the years. He was free for lunch and looking for company. I called him up and he put us on the reservations.
Over lunch we caught up on what he’s been doing lately. About 7 months ago he started as an engineering consultant to a company he once worked for. That company had laid him off and transferred the engineering department to a foreign company.
During those two years my friend was unable to find suitable work in his field. He was offered jobs, but they would have required him to relocate. He and his wife have roots where he lives and moving would have been a last resort.
After two years the company that fired him quietly asked if he’d be willing to do some work as a consultant. The design team that had replaced him totally messed things up. On some projects they worked for over a year and were unable to produce a successful product. My buddy has been able to solve the very same problems working part time from home.
After his 6 month contract was up, they signed him on for another year -with a huge bonus and pay increase. That’s nice, but I think he gets as much satisfaction from making the foreign team look really bad. He gets to do that on a regular basis. They are on their way out and know it.
As for icing on the cake, the boss who fired him eventually was fired.
My buddy works from home most of the time and only goes into the office a few times a month. That’s how he can take leisurely lunches that stretch into offices back at his house. If he wants to take half the day off that’s his business. Nice.
Once in a while we get to see karma in action. What goes around comes around.
Friday, June 29, 2012
My lovely wife and I were talking about our income the other day. In real terms, we expect it to go steadily down. Inflation could eat away at it, or the actual amount could be reduced. Either way, it’s less to live on. That’s been the overall trend for us over the last 20 years.
That doesn’t mean we live less. Just the opposite has happened. Ten years ago we could only afford to travel by living in a tent and staying at campgrounds. It came as quite a shock to realize we could not longer afford to spend most of our time in campgrounds. Last winter we spent time with friends, relatives and on the sailboat. Only a handful of days were spent in actual campgrounds.
Strange to think that living on a sailboat was cheaper than in a tent at a campground. We spent more time on beautiful beaches and went places that could only be reached by boat. Quite a few nights we just set the anchor and stayed for free. When we stayed at a marina, the price was pretty reasonable because our boat is short and they charge by the foot. We get the same services and facilities as everyone else, but pay a lot less for it.
Our custom camping van will save us some motel nights. We only would stay at a hotel to sleep. We can do the whole camp at Walmart in the parking lot thing and sleep just as well. At least the bed will be one we are used to.
Eventually, we hope to sell the house to the kids and move into something like a yurt on the land across the street. We could actually live pretty comfortably in a 20 foot yurt. Winters we would live on a sailboat where the water is warm and the sun is hot.
We plan on adjusting to diminishing income. The other way would be to find more work. Sometimes that’s what you have to do. If time is more important, however, you end up finding different ways to live. Some people work crazy hours to support the things in life that give them status: nice car, big hours, expensive vacations, all the physical signs that a person has made it. My status comes from other things. Having free time to do the things I love is one. Finding alternatives to the conventional way of life is another.
Some people look at something like my ambulance to motorhome project and think I’m some kind of crazy hobo. My vehicle is different looking. I’m handling smelly fry oil and lifting heavy jugs to fuel it. I don’t have a sleek RV with all the toys. I’m really not interested in impressing those people.
It is nice when someone checks out what I’m doing and “gets it.” Often it’s people who live lives of nonconformity themselves. I like talking to those people as we can trade tips on what works. Sometimes it’s someone who lives a normal life on the surface, but has an inner rebel struggling to be free.
Diminishing income is in a lot more people’s future. They just don’t know it yet. Keeping up with the Jones is a fools game. Listen to that inner rebel.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Paracynic made some very good comments about people being safer in the city. (Exits and Safety Tips) He’s right that if you have a heart attack in a major city, paramedics will be treating you in minutes and you are five minutes away from a quality hospital. Out here in the country we do things differently -we die.
My point wasn’t so much the merits of city vs country life. The focus was on how do you get out of such a place. People should think about it. Maybe you’ve got a private helicopter or a fast boat in the harbor. Maybe you keep a sharp weather out for trouble and lead the exodus rather than being caught up in traffic. Perhaps you plan on biking out down railroad tracks. Some people escaped Manhattan on 911 by kayaking off the island.
Around the world, the trend is for people to leave the country and head into cities. That’s where the economic opportunities are. My own ancestors were happy to trade life on a Quebec potato farm for factory work.
There are some real positives to city life. It is possible to live with a much smaller energy footprint. Cars are not needed. Big apartment buildings are more efficient than single houses. Everything you need is in easy walking distance. Political power becomes concentrated in cities. Who wants to be the king of empty space? Because of that power, the countryside will be stripped to keep cities going.
Some look at cities and see a teeming hive of activity. I see a box. It’s important to be able to get out of that box. My favorite solution is to not put myself in that box any more than I have to.
Cities can be nasty traps. The Warsaw Jewish ghettos. Sarajevo during the Balkan wars, New Orleans during the Katrina, Detroit any given day.
There are black swan events that would make cities serious death traps. tsunamis, EMP pluses, nuclear war, hurricanes, or civil unrest. I would not want to be in any desert city if the water supply was ever cut off.
That being said, Paracynic is right. The odds are that on any give day you are safer in the city.
That works as long as the infrastructure of the city is up and running. You can’t exactly live off the land in the city. A city is dependent on a steady stream of goods, food, water and energy to keep going.
Of course, everything isn’t black and white. The world isn’t divided up between New York and East Mooseknuckle. There are smaller cities that are quite livable. Plenty of country places really can’t support their populations, small as they are. I’ve a friend who plans to move to country when he retires, but he has some medical issues. He’s checking out property in the country near a top quality regional hospital. It’s small but well equipped and staffed by some of the best people in their fields. Moving out to the country doesn’t have to mean disappearing into the Bitteroot Mountains.
For me, the city has too many rules and points of control. Many of us country people figure we can just fade away into the bush. I'll take my chances in the country. Sure, I could die from an accident or a heart attack, but living in the city would kill me by inches.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Do you check out the exits when you enter a room? Are the fire exits blocked? Is there a back way out? Would throwing a heavy chair through a window make a handy exit? Call it a hold over from my firefighter days. I can’t walk into a room without imagining it on fire. At least twice in my life it has come in handy. Being first to leave a burning room is a good thing.
When you are seated at a restaurant, do you prefer to have your back to a wall? My wife used to think I was nuts. Then there was the one time it saved me from getting hit from behind. I was able to keep a table between me and someone who wished me serious bodily harm. It only has to work once to look like a darn good idea.
How about cities? They give me the willies. It takes hours for a small percentage of people to leave them in normal times. What would happen in a disaster? What if everyone had to leave all at once? Think back to New Orleans during Katrina, or Manhattan during 911. The ways out were soon closed. If you didn’t get out early, you didn’t get out at all.
Then there’s Global Industrial Civilization. Where are the exits? What can a person do when the whole thing catches fire?
Keep your back to the wall and have an exit strategy.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Ten months ago I dropped my medical insurance when it reached $1000/month. That’s long enough to get some idea how that’s been working out for me. My out of pocket expenses for the whole ten months has been $500 for my wife’s medication. She’s on Medicare now and it doesn’t pay for her expensive medications as well as my old insurance did. That still leaves me $9500 ahead of the game.
I was taking the dog for a walk in the middle of the night and fell down a couple stairs off my daughter’s deck. My landing was really awkward and I broke a toe and ripped a flap of skin off the end of my right thumb. Did I go to the hospital? Of course not.
The thing is, if I’d still had insurance, I would not have gone. They really can’t do much for a broken toe. As for the thumb, a good cleaning and a bandage took care of that. The next day I happened to be visiting a paramedic friend of mine. He checked out my thumb, shrugged, and put a new bandage on it. It headed up just fine.
What if I’d broken a leg or something? Then the ER would have to patch me up. If I had to I’d set up a payment plan to pay them back -but at well under $1000/month.
People ask what would happen if I’d have a really major problem. Simple. It would bankrupt me, just like it bankrupted my parents when my mom had cancer. They had “good” insurance, but the copays, travel, and other expenses ruined them anyway.
By January my finances were in good enough shape that I decided to spend some of that money on better quality food. Since I started eating better I’ve lost 30 pounds without even trying. Maybe I’ll spend some of that insurance savings on new hiking boots or a bicycle. Probably both.
I’m feeling great and slowly catching up on my debt instead of making more.
Monday, June 25, 2012
What’s better for the advancement of humankind, large unified territories or small little places that don’t really get along?
Think back to history. The Roman Empire spread learning over a very large area. Advances were made in many fields. When the empire fell we slipped into the Dark Ages.
. . . which lasted until the Renaissance. There were an awful lot of little countries at that time, yet that’s when art and science reawakened.
I had to ask myself, what did those two prosperous time periods have in common? It all comes down to mobility. The Roman Empire built excellent quality roads that were relatively safe to travel on. Ideas and people could travel easily.
The Renaissance time period, as I see it, still comes down to mobility. Countries were divided, but borders were fairly porous. If someone ran afoul of the local ruler, it was a short trip to a different country. Trade crossed borders. Even things like cannon, essential to war efforts, crossed borders of rival countries. If you can’t stop cannon from moving around, you certainly can’t stop ideas.
What about today? Is the EU good or bad for the average person under its umbrella? On one hand, the EU has kept a lid on European wars, so that’s a good thing. It has also made travel between member countries much easier. On the other hand the EU can enforce rules and regulations across a large area, stifling innovation and local solutions to problems. Has the EU passed the point of diminishing returns?
The United States seemed designed from the ground up to try and take advantage of large and small dynamics at the same time. Brilliant in theory. The Federal government would take care of things like roads, water ways, navies, armies -the things that make travel and trade easy and safe. The states could all adapt to local conditions and cultures.
At one time, if a person had to remake themselves, they’d do something like move out West. They were still in the same country, but under a different set of local rules and expectations. Newer territories tended to be looser and more open to new ideas.
That was then. The Federal part of the design has grown and grown until its power reaches into everyone’s day to day lives. Moving to a different state makes a difference, but not the huge difference it once did.
Now it looks like there’s a chance the EU will break up. How will that affect human progress in the long run? On the positive side, it would free a lot of smaller places from central control. That should help innovation. At the same time, however, there’s talk of severely restricting movement between countries. If the Internet remains relatively free and open, ideas could cross borders making up somewhat for travel restrictions. However, governments seem to really want to restrict and control the Internet.
Maybe we should look to the remains of the old USSR. It’s been broken apart long enough that we should be able to judge if individuals are better off or not. If the break up has been good for humanity, we should be starting to see some innovations about now. There are some fascinating things brewing in some of these countries that could have major implications down the road, but they are in their infancy.
Has the impact of the break up been lessened by many of these countries joining other International organizations like NATO, the IMF, International trade and finance agreements, or other schemes? Have multi-national corporations become stifling empires of their own?
For humankind to thrive, I’m looking for situations where mobility (of people goods and ideas) and personal freedom are both allowed or encouraged.
I look at the news and wonder what will become history.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
I talked to the daughter of a former firefighter friend of mine. We worked on the same crew for quite a few years. He’s retired and living in Florida now. My lovely wife and I visited him and his wife a number of times this past winter.
He’s trying to sell his house in New Hampshire -before it’s foreclosed on. I was expecting him to come north to clean it out. My buddy isn’t coming up after all. Instead, he’ll be getting treated for lung cancer. His daughter just called to ask me to pick up a few things from the house, mostly the family photo albums.
This is his second bout with the disease. They will zap it with radiation this time. There isn’t enough lung left to do surgery again.
There aren’t a lot of my brother firefighters left. Cancer has claimed many of them. Lung cancer more than a few. Lung damage is the reason my career came to an end. No cancer, thank God. It’s possible I have a genetic quirk that makes me more resistant. Maybe it’s the non traditional treatments I’ve tried over the years. Who knows? Luck of the draw?
Another common issue with my brothers is joint and back problems. Hip and knee replacements are common as is chronic back pain. Most of those guys go under the knife sooner or later. Once again, I’ve been lucky. Everything keeps on working well enough.
When I first went out on disability I had a lot of nightmares. One night I had what seemed like a fairly normal firehouse dream. In my dream I went on a couple small runs with the engine company. There was the normal day to day activities -nothing major. When I woke up, however, I had a cold shiver. Every firefighter in my dream was someone who I once worked with and had since passed away. I was on a crew of the dead.
Picking up the photo albums for my buddy is the least I could do. It should ease his mind a bit and that will help with the healing. I hope his treatment goes well and he has a few more years before he joins the night crew.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
I’d like to have a bicycle. They are a handy form of transportation and I used to enjoy peddling one. The problem is that even though I’ve lost significant weight, I’m still in the upper 300s. Most bikes are just not built for big people.
Many manufactures think they have a big person bike if it’s rated for 250 pounds. A few claim claim 400 pounds -static weight. What the heck is static weight? Does that mean the bike will hold a 400 pound person, unless they try to ride it?
Some of the bikes designed to carry cargo might have potential. After all, they are rated to carry a load.
My research has pointed me towards bikes with steel frames, steel rims, heavy duty tires, and disk brakes. These aren’t light weight bikes.
There are specialty bikes sold through big and tall stores, but I don’t want to pay two grand for a bicycle. I don’t pay two grand for my cars.
I am curious if any of my readers have any first hand knowledge. Am I missing something?
Just to make things interesting. Are they any rugged folding bikes. Sailboats often keep a couple folding bikes stowed away on board. Beats the heck out of walking 3 miles to get supplies. Often they pay for themselves in saved cab fairs alone.
The catch 22 is that if I had a bike I’d probably lose weight faster and be able to ride a normal bike eventually.
Friday, June 22, 2012
Did you ever think about having to live out of your car? Thousands of people end up doing just that, but how many had a plan to do it successfully?
For quite a few years, my lovely wife and I spent our winters tent camping. Before we headed out, I did a lot of reading up on people who lived in their cars. We had no intention to live in the car; we had a a couple tents with us. Our plan was to stay at campgrounds and that’s pretty much what we did.
However, learning about how people live in their cars was useful. It helped us decide what to pack, how to cook on the road, bathroom breaks, staying clean, doing laundry, and how to save money. On the few occasions that we ended up sleeping in our car, we knew how to do it a bit more comfortably and a bit more safely.
When you don’t have to live in your car is a good time to prepare for the possibility. Space is limited, so having the right gear is important. It’s not a bad idea to have basic camping gear in your car; backpacking stove, sleeping bags, tarps, food, cookware, soap, water filter, clothes for your climate. It’s similar to having a bug out vehicle ready to go. The main difference is a bug out vehicle is outfitted for a few days, or at most a week or two. Car living could stretch on for months or even years. There is no bug out destination.
I’m not going to get into much detail as there are books and other sources of information if a person is truly interested in the subject.
When people think of living in a vehicle, they think of a big RV. Nice, but not necessary. One guy I met was living in Toyota sedan. He was a disabled vet with limited resources. He removed the passenger seat to make room for an inflatable mattress. A sun shade provided privacy. Every inch of space was put to good use. It was the most organized and well equipped small car I’d ever seen. He even found room for a full sized guitar.
Of course, my ambulance to motorhome conversion would make a fine vehicle for long term living. There’s an awful lot of comfort that can be squeezed into a one ton van. I bought it for camping and to pull my sailboat, but I should equip it for bug out/car living possibilities too. Being able to run it on waste vegetable oil doesn’t hurt either.
Strangers living in cars come under suspicion. One hint that really works is having a canoe on your vehicle. It gives you a reason for being out in the country. You aren’t just some random person in a car, you are a sportsman. Often people will check out the boat and talk canoing. Ask them what they fish for in these parts and they’ll open right up.
It’s not a bad idea to actually have some basic fishing gear with you. That canoe can take you to fishing spots the guy on shore can’t reach. It’s also a good platform for gathering edible plants. When you come to the end of the road, you can load your gear into that canoe and head out on the water. It’s a nice option.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
This is a test fit of all the modules I built. They are rough. There’s sanding and painting to be done.
Here’s a shot from the back. That’s set up like a table. Notice it’s the thickness of two 2X4s.
The top table is held in place by pins. There are legs stored inside. Here it is with the legs installed and set next to the first table.
There’s a third table that slides into place. When on in use, it can be tipped on end and slide into that dark area on the left hand side. There are straps to hold it in place.
Here’s what it looks like with the futon mattress in place. The mattress can be rolled out of the way and the table reassembled.
The table is held is place by adapting hardware that once kept stretchers from sliding around. All the table modules can be removed -either for use outside the van or to make room for hauling large items.
It’s rough, but looks like it will do the job. The only materials purchased for this job was about $25 for 2x4s. The table tops are left over scrap plywood. Some of the materials were salvaged from a construction site. The color will be determined by whatever paint I’ve got in my basement.
We might need to sleep in the van this weekend, so I’ve been in a hurry to get it functional.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Twenty two years ago, I bought a Makita skill saw. Over the years the power cord’s been changed 3 times. The spring on the blade guard was replaced at least four times. Even the motor brushes were changed once. I don’t know how many blades I’ve replaced.
My tools have a hard life. They get a lot of use and a fair amount of abuse.
It’s no wonder that the skill saw didn’t work a couple days ago when I was building roof racks. Yesterday an attempt was made to fix it. The power cord checked out. I tried to remove the cover over one of the motor brushes and the plastic cracked. At that point it occurred to me that maybe it was time for a new skill saw.
The saws I looked at ranged in price from a Black and Decker for $60 all the way up to a Milwaukee for $150. My dad used to use Black and Decker saws, but he’d burn them out at the rate of one per year. He didn’t seem to mind as he was using them 5 days/week working construction. The guys he worked with were a bunch of yahoos who destroyed a lot of tools. My guess is that he didn’t want to put anything too valuable in harm’s way.
As for myself, I’m too cheap to buy a cheap saw. I went with the Milwaukee. If it performs for half as long as the old Makita did, I’ll be way ahead of the game. The budget got stretched a bit, but at least I have a good saw.
Back when I’d bought the Makita I bought a number of quality tools. It’s a good thing that I did because there some awfully tight years since. At least I had good tools to work with. Had a cheap tool failed, I could not have replaced it, even with the cheapest tool available.
If times get tight again, at least my tools should still be around. In the mean time, I’m working with better tools. That does make a difference. The job goes better. Cuts are more accurate, and I’m not even as tired at the end of the day. Poor quality tools frustrate the heck out of me.
All my tool shopping was done at small local independent hardware stores and lumberyards. The local price on the saw I bought was actually a bit cheaper than the same saw from Amazon. Plus, I could handle the saw, check out its balance and quality. After paying for it, I could take it home and use it the same day.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
I woke up to the Internet being down. That doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen. That’s bad enough, but my phone is through an Internet provider, so that was out too. We do get some TV news channels -also through the Internet, so no TV news either.
My main source of information and my only form of outside communication was out of order. We don’t have cell phone service here, wrong side of the mountain. If it wasn’t for radio, I’d have no idea what the heck was going on in the world.
Why do I have all my eggs in one basket? Efficiency and economy, that’s why. I had satellite Internet at one time. It worked well enough, but it was about 40% more expensive than fiber. Also, I couldn’t take advantage of Internet phone services. My land line was almost twice the price and provided fewer features. That’s how just about everything got funnel through the Internet service.
For me, it was a mild inconvenience, but it did make something clear to me. The whole world has gone to the most efficient and economical systems. Like me, the world budgets are tight. There’s no economic incentive for redundancy. Whoever can provide services or goods at the most lowest price wins. Everyone else fades away.
That’s how the world became dominated by a small number of large companies. In your daily life look how Walmart has come to dominate. It’s not just a department store. It’s were a goodly percentage of people get their groceries, pharmacy drugs, and even financial services. They are a one stop shop.
I hear there’s a city in China that makes most of the world’s socks. You’d be surprised to find out how many different brands of computers are actually made in Taiwan. Certain key electronic components are only manufactured by one company.
Even forests, as they mature, get more efficient and streamlined. Certain ecological niches get dominated by the most efficient exploiter. Eventually, it’s the only critter doing that job.
A few hours later the Internet came back up. Booting up the wifi router and phone box got all systems running again. No big problem -this time. Had it gone away I’d have to do without for a period of time. Eventually, some sort of partial work around might get cobbled together.
It’s not a big crisis on an individual level. On a world wide scale, that’s a different story. Today’s little service outage got me thinking about our complex systems. It’s only natural for our eggs to end up in one basket. It’s more efficient and cheaper, so that’s what happens.
Sure, I could get backup systems for everything, but I’d have to give up something else. My budget doesn’t have the wiggle room it once had. Only thing is, the world doesn’t have any wiggle room either.
Monday, June 18, 2012
My lovely wife and I were enjoying our morning coffee’s while sitting out in the sun. She asked me if this is where I expected to be way back when I was growing up.
“Yeah, pretty much,” I said, “although there are plenty of things that are bonus.”
It’s better than expected as there some wonderful things that happened in my life that I never even dreamed of.
That’s not to say the road was straight. There brushes with death, financial ruin, family issues -a whole laundry list of trials. In spite of it all, here I am pretty much where I hoped to be. Happily married with a good family, living where I want to live.
That’s not to say it couldn’t all go away tomorrow. That’s the nature of life. There are no happily ever afters. Even the best lives eventually end.
However, once in a while, it’s good to reflect and be grateful for our blessings. Then it’s time to wash those coffee cups and the rest of the breakfast dishes. Life goes on.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
We’ve all worried about stuff. Lost sleep over it and suffered anxiety and tension. It could be losing a job. Someone leaving your life. Perhaps your house is getting foreclosed. Maybe you are waiting for a medical diagnosis. Something bothers the heck out of you.
Finally the news hits . . . and it’s bad. We are certainly not happy that the bad thing has happened, but there is a sense of relief too. At least you know. You can now deal with the problem, or at least accept the inevitable. The burden of hope has been lifted. Sounds weird, but even letting go of hope can make a person feel a bit better.
People worry about losing their job for weeks, months or even years. Then the job is gone and life goes on. The house is foreclosed on, and it feels like an albatross has been removed from your neck. The ending of one relationship makes room for a new one. Even learning about bad things you can’t change is better than waiting to find out.
Many of use have been watching the crisis in Europe. Week after week, things come right up to the edge of the cliff then financial rabbits are pulled out of hats. Everyone applauds and the show goes on -until the next disaster.
A lot of us are worried. How badly will Europe suffer? How far around the world with the problems reach? Can the problems keep getting put off indefinitely?
Things are coming to some sort of resolution. As I write this, pivotal elections are happening in Greece. That may be the spark that ignites the conflagration. If not them, perhaps the collapse of the Spanish or Italian economy might do it. Even the average German is getting screwed and resents it.
My guess is that “the bad thing” whatever it is, will happen soon. We won’t have to worry about some great unknown problem. The problem, or most likely interlocking problems, will be obvious for all to see. Then we can all let out a big sigh of relief, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
The veggie van has roof racks! A chance to go on a canoe trip came up so I hastily put together a set of roof racks. I had a broken set of pipe racks, so I salvaged the feet and used 2X4s for the crossbars. The cross bars have a strip of wood along the bottom for stiffness. Works just fine and cost less than 20 dollars in new materials.
The canoe is an Old Town Discovery. To provide a sense of scale, the canoe is 17 feet 4 inches long. The racks sit around 9 feet up in the air. It’s quite the trick to get the boat up there. I lift up the canoe on my shoulders and carry it to the back. The bow of the boat goes up on the back roof rack. Then it’s slide forward in one smooth motion so that it reaches the front rack. Bow and stern ropes are used to pull it into its final position.
Tying it down was a bit awkward the first time, but it should go faster next time. The important thing is that it stays where it belongs.
The racks are wide enough for two large canoes. Almost all my vehicles have ended up with roof racks. They are just the thing for moving ladders, lumber, and boats, of course. I used to carry a 20 foot cedar strip canoe on top of a Dodge Omni. It looked funny. The canoe was much longer than the car, but it handled just fine.
Friday, June 15, 2012
It's come to my attention that Adsense is putting political ads on my site. I suppose I could try and figure out a way to ban them, but I had a different idea.
If you don't like political ad, click on it. That will cost them money and you'll be hurting their effort a tiny bit.
To be honest, it would also generatre a bit of income to the Sixbears site.
A win win in my book.
I’m not talking about darn big lizards. I’m talking about real dinosaurs -those mega banks and other mega corporations. We know them as the “too big to fail.”
Of course, that’s wishful thinking on their part. Take the banks for instance. What’s keeping them going? Government bailouts. Some like to think of it as a waste of tax payer’s money. It isn’t really tax payer money. There isn’t nearly enough of that. It’s money created out of nothing at all -smoke, mirrors, promises, inflation, Chinese voodoo, whatever.
How do they keep a straight face when they talk about paying off the debts someday? It’s physically impossible. The world economy would have to grow at a dizzying rate -instead of shrinking. Yes, it’s shrinking. Only creative accounting can give the illusion it isn’t. At some point in time those debts will be written off -one way or the other.
Mega corporations only keep themselves going through a tight partnership with government. Sometimes it’s direct, like when an automaker gets one of those magic government loans. Other times it’s a bit hidden, like requiring everyone to get medical insurance, or auto insurance, or asteroid insurance. Add in licenses, regulations only the big boys can follow (or are exempted from) and it’s a pretty cozy arrangement.
The game is rigged. How can anyone win?
By not playing.
Boycotts work. A large number of people could decide not to do business with XYZ corp and they are suddenly in trouble. As effective as boycott can be, they are old school and limited.
To kill a dinosaur, you starve it to death. Think of a boycott of -everything. Nobody buys anything, borrows any money or even pays taxes. A well coordinated effort could crash the whole system. That scares people, as well it should. Dying dinosaurs thrash around and trample a lot of little folk in their death throes.
That may be the good scenario. You see, the dinosaurs are going to die, even if nothing is done. They’ve grown so big the land can no longer support them. They are outstripping the world’s resources. Wages are about as low as they can go. At it is workers can barely buy the basics of life. The robbers have stolen just about everything of value.
Problem is, a lot of people are living on the scraps dropped by the dinosaurs. They are going to have a hard time. They need a plan B. Just look at the political attack on food stamps, Social Security, Medicare, and other social programs. The dinos want to eat up those scraps too.
The dinosaurs will die. We can either find a way to live without them now, or scramble like crazy later when the old monsters die. On the bright side, we won’t have to compete with dinosaurs once they are gone.
Maybe the smart thing is to kill the dinosaurs before they consume any more of the good stuff.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
There I was, in the middle of little project. I’d heated metal, loosened corroded bolts, hit stuck things with heavy things. All the materials had been gathered except a bit of lumber. Just as I was heading out the door to go to the lumber yard the phone rang.
My cousin was on the phone. He asked if my sailboat was in the water and did I want to go sailing. Sure, why not? The project could wait. A storm had just blown through. The sun was out but there was still plenty of wind. Excellent sailing conditions.
My cousin brought his little Scorpion sailboat. His girlfriend’s 12 year old son joined my lovely wife and I on our boat. He had a blast. I let him take the tiller for a while. Always fun to take a kid sailing.
The projects can wait.
There’s no sense in living on a lake if I don’t make use of it.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
I used to enjoy trips to the dump. For a guy like me who often makes something good out of someone else’s trash, it was a fun place. Now it’s a “transfer station” and no fun at all. They don’t even allow picking. That was 3/4 the fun of taking a load to the dump.
The last few weeks I’ve been loading junk into the truck, a little at a time. Finally, I had to admit that it was time to get rid of it all. I tied and it all down and fired up the truck. Then I shut the truck down and hunted around for the darn dump permit. No sense pulling up to the place without a permit.
Could I find the nice crisp permit that’s been in my way for weeks? Of course not. So I fired up the veggie van and drove across town to the town hall. The town clerk met me on the way out. She was locking up the place. Small towns keep haphazard hours so perhaps she was taking an early lunch?
“Did I just miss you,” I said.
“No, I just have to run something over to the post office. I’ll be right back.”
My town is so small that when the clerk steps out, she locks the door behind her. On the bright side, it’s so small that the post office is located right across the street. She was right back and quickly wrote out the necessary permit.
Then it was off to the transfer station. The Dump Nazi guards the gate. People have to park in a designated area until he motions them on to the scale. That’s where he weighs the load and checks the permit.
“What do you have?” he said.
I rattled off a long list of the stuff I could remember.
“Any tires or air conditioners?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
Of course my word is no good for him. He has to poke around my load for a bit. Finally he tells me which piles to unload the different stuff at.
The first thing I unload is a broken dishwasher.
“That doesn’t go here,” said a voice. The Dump Nazi had followed me to the back side of the facility.
“It’s almost all plastic.” I said.
“No matter, there’s some metal on it so it goes into the metal pile.”
After unloading everything but the metal, I pick up the dishwasher to load it up for the trip across the lot. Until this point I’d kept pretty clean. The dishwasher tipped a bit during the loading process and poured a load of foul water all over my shirt.
Then I unloaded the rest of the stuff at the metal pile. The Dump Nazi watched me the whole time, his eyes scanning the load for contraband trash. On the way out trucks have to go back over the scale where you wait for the guy to finish picking his nose. Eventually he waved me through.
Bureaucracy has ruined the simple joy of going to the dump. Now I’m happy that most stuff gets recycled these days. I never did like waste, but dealing with a miniature Hitler is something I could do without.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
I’m not impressed by someone’s Lexus or other fancy car. The McMansion on the hill is an opportunity lost. All those materials could have built something interesting instead of a big impractical house.
I’m the guy driving around in a decommissioned ambulance and living in a dome. If you want to impress me, drive a hearse and live in a yurt. Heck, the guy who rides a cargo bicycle and lives in a cave is more interesting.
Street performers and hobos catch my attention more than famous actors.
Why do all the oddballs and weirdos inspire me? These are all people who’ve stepped out of the mold. Some have walked a different path on purpose. Others have slipped off the path and found themselves in a place more interesting.
Some follow the beat of a different drummer, but a few follow the bleat of a different kazoo.
Growing up we have a lot of expectations put on us. Parents have expectations. School does its best to cram us into a few pigeon holes. The working world has requirements that must be met. Our government expect citizens to fit within an acceptable range. Friends want and expect certain behaviors.
People who listen to their own inner voice and act on it are rare indeed. The world has tried hard to chain that little voice, muffling it or putting it in a tight harness. Free people stick out.
That’s what impresses me: men and women who’ve chosen freedom. The path can be hard or easy, but it’s their’s alone. They may look and act strange -mavericks do not have to conform.
Economies are failing. Governments are falling. Political philosophies don’t work. Chaos grows. Following the old tried and true paths no longer produce the promised results. The loyal, dedicated, and competent employee gets canned anyway. The new college grad cannot find decent full time work. Property doesn’t gain value but loses it.
What’s a person to do? Learn from the strange ones. The collapse of old orders mean little to them as they’ve nothing invested in them.
Whether you want them to or not, your chains are breaking. They may have been nice soft and warm chains, but they bound you none the less. Good luck dealing with limitless opportunities for change.
Are you strange enough to survive?
Monday, June 11, 2012
Sunday was absolutely beautiful. Just the kind of day people hope to get when they vacation in New Hampshire. I’m here all the time, but I appreciate it here as much or more than the tourists.
A few years ago my lovely wife worked at a hospital located in a major tourist town. It’s one of those places where the population increases ten fold during the vacation seasons. She saw a lot of sick and injured people from far away.
There were the common injuries one would expect, everything from broken legs from skiing to sun burnt dehydrated boaters.
Then there was something odd. There was a significant number of people that didn’t fit the vacation injury mold. They brought their problems with them. These people were often the hard working, hardly ever take a break type “A” personalities. Suddenly they find themselves on vacation and they fall apart.
These people were working sick and/or injured, often for months. They keep going by willpower and force of habit. When the go on vacation, they finally have a moment to listen to their body. Their body tells them to go to the hospital. It’s amazing the problems people ignore. That’s fine in an emergency. Our bodies can do some fantastic things. We can dip deep into our physical and mental reserves. However, we can’t do that 100% of the time.
I wonder how many of those people took the time to do a little self reflection. My guess is that most of them went right back at it. A small few may have asked why they were killing themselves doing something they hated for people they didn’t like.
On the flip side, how many people don’t take vacations; they take sick days? They work until they can’t physically do it at all. The emphasis in this society is to give 110%. A basic understanding of math shows that’s not going to work out well. How about giving 90%? What’s wrong with having a little strength in reserve.
Do you want your life to be a sprint or a marathon?
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Actually, the hitch project is going well. Going down to the local auto parts store and picking up a trailer hitch for an ambulance isn’t an option. My buddy Jeff is doing a darn fine job welding up a custom hitch.
His friend Greg is letting us use his well equipped shop to do the construction. Jeff is really the one doing the construction. At one time I did a little welding, but gave it up because the fumes aren’t good for my weakened lungs. While Jeff’s been welding, I’ve been admiring Greg’s boat project.
Greg loves to restore old classic things: cars, trucks, refrigerators, and now this boat. It’s a 1960 wooden powerboat, a real beauty. It combines Greg’s passions for restoration and time on the water.
Greg also suggested some improvements on the hitch. It’s probably strong enough, but roads are bad. Knowing me, I might end up pulling a bigger boat with it too. Making it better now won’t ever be regretted.
With any luck, I’ll have time to wire the electrical plug Monday afternoon. The project is coming together.
Friday, June 8, 2012
My lovely wife and I were on a little sail on our little lake. Until the trailer hitch is installed on the van, we aren’t going to be taking it anywhere else.
No matter, it still a very pleasant sail. It gives us a chance to talk.
She informs me that we should learn more of the French language. Not so much for Quebec, which is right next door. She suggested we prepare to travel in the French Caribbean. That sounds like a fine idea to me. She figures in about 3 years we should be ready to sail down there.
I love it when she starts plotting an adventure.
I’m no great student of languages, but I do know some French. I understand a lot more than I can speak, and the same goes for the written language. It will take some work to get good enough to make myself understood.
What usually happens to me in Quebec is that they will pretend to not understand English. Then I’ll try to speak to them in my fractured French. After a few minutes, someone will admit to being able to speak English rather than listen to me butchering the language. My goal is to make a native French speaker cringe less.
So why the French Caribbean? I don’t know, I’m just the husband. No doubt I’ll be told more on a need to know basis.
This is not our first attempt learning a language together. We are big fans of the Science Fiction TV show Firefly. A fair amount of Chinese is spoken in the series. We learned it, but it was generally slang and swear words. While that may work in some situations, we felt it a good idea to round out our knowledge a bit.
While we did learn a few basics, we didn’t get much further than that. For some reason the language CDs we were using kept trying to teach us what we would need to know to pick up women.
“I would like to have a drink with you in at my hotel room.”
“No, I do not want to go out to dinner. I want to go to your place for dinner instead.”
We kept laughing too hard to learn my more. About all I remember to do in Mandarin is how to say I can’t speak Mandarin very well.
Hopefully the French language study will go better.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
I’ve been on the road for a couple days. Drove over 300 miles in the diesel to veggie converted ambulance. I’m feeling more confident in my handiwork. No leaks and it ran fine at highway speeds. Even did great through the steep winding mountain roads.
Came back just in time to help a friend move and install some 5 X 8 foot signs. His help had to bail on him at the last minute so I filled in. My vehicle worked well as a contractor van.
As soon as I could get away from that job, I scooted over to the Acoustic Cafe to meet up with my lovely wife. She was looking for me as she’d scored some waste veggie and needed me to move it. We picked up over 15 gallons of French fry oil from a food concession at a classic car event. Thank you very much.
It’s been too much coffee, too little sleep, and too few meals. Time to get a bite to eat then go to bed.
At the tender age of 17 or so, I first really noticed outliving something. US involvement in the Vietnam war ended. Walter Cronkite brought that war into my living room every night and then it was over. So many older relatives went there. As a kid you assume that maybe that’ll be your fate someday.
It wasn’t to be. I’d outlasted it, and just before I reached draft age. A friend of mine a year older than me went. That’s how close it was. He enlisted early. His plane was one of the last ones in. They disembarked from the plane, but never left the runway. The officers loaded them all back up and got the heck out of there. Things were falling apart that fast.
Another big one for me was outlasting the Berlin Wall. The Cold War was another one of those things I grew up with. We were all taught to fear Russians. One day we were told we didn’t have to fear them anymore. The fall of the wall was one of those rare definitive ending points to a historical period.
Growing up in a mill town, the mill is central to life. My grandfather and father both worked there. As a young kid, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I did know I didn’t want to spend my life in the mill. Just as well, as I outlived the mill -and a good chunk of the town that went with it.
The Science Fiction writer Heinlein was a proponent of outliving of your enemies. That’s the attitude that got me through a few Presidents. Anyone remember Tricky Dick?
Looks like there’s trouble up ahead. Europe is turmoil, the US is having a hard time. Even China isn’t immune from economic unrest. Catastrophes await in the dark ready to ambush us all.
Even though I’m not even sure how everything will shake out, I plan on outliving the troubles. Why not? After all, there were people who outlived the fall of the Roman Empire. How much worse can this be?
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Well, here it is 2012, the end of the world. 12 years after the other end of the world back in 2000. Oh wait, didn’t we have a few raptures along the way?
Here we are, still on the green side of the grass.
The world did end. It ends every single day for someone. I’m glad it hasn’t ended for me yet. Not that weren’t some close calls.
A lot of Preppers are guys. Maybe we have more taste for doom. Perhaps it comes from all those fighting cave bears for real estate. We expect that maybe bad things might happen.
Women, in general, don’t usually want to talk about this sort of thing. That doesn’t mean they don’t keep their eyes out for trouble. It seems some guys love to talk about this stuff, but women rather not. Doesn’t mean they don’t think it. They want their home and family to be safe. Men and women often have different ideas of what will keep someone safe.
The guy might want to buy the latest assault rifle and 10,000 rounds of ammo. The lady of the house might think the money would be better spent keeping the household out of debt. Most of the time, the keep the budget balanced strategy is the most useful -until the hordes of zombies attack. Then you’ll wish you had that battle rifle.
Okay, so the zombie hordes are a really low probability. The end of the world is an even lower probability. The thing is, what can we do about it? The end of the world thing is actually pretty easy. Unless you have a way off this world, there’s nothing that can be done about the end of the world. It it happens, we all die. End of story.
It’s the less than total crackup that takes some planning for. It’s the smaller disasters that could end the world for you that needs attention. If you were in Russia in 1990, and kept your eyes open, the end of empire was in sight. Those people who could take care of their own needs and had a community to draw on did much better than those without.
In the USA, it might be 1990. Heck, for most of the world it could be 1990. The US will not give up empire gently. I think we were very lucky that the USSR did not turn to the outside distraction of a major war. May we be as lucky and realize, like USSR, a screw up in Afghanistan is trouble enough.
Where’s this all going? Today my lovely wife was really stressing that we have to get our preps sorted out soon. It’s time to build fix up the house and build that greenhouse. She’s the one who pushed me to get the garden ready for planting early this year. My lovely wife has a keen sense of when trouble is coming, and her spidey senses are tingling.
No, it’s not the end of the world, but something to take seriously enough to get a few more things squared away.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
A friend snapped this photo of my lake in the evening. That’s my lovely wife and I in that sailboat on the right side of the photo. We had the lake to ourselves. Since this photo was taken rain has come down almost constantly. Good thing we went out when we did.
There wasn’t much wind, but that doesn’t matter. We had no place to go. Being together on the sailboat was the point. Eventually we sailed back to our beach. My lovely wife can be even more of a purist than I am. She would not let me start the motor to travel the last 500 feet or so, even though the wind had almost completely died. In the end, I tossed the anchor off the bow and got a little forward motion by hauling it back in. It was enough for my wife at the tiller to guide us home.
There’s something special about living in a place that’s a vacation destination. The all too brief warm months slip by all too quickly. Most of my friends moved away for better educations and jobs. I stayed. How could I leave this behind?
Monday, June 4, 2012
Picture a fishing net as large as the sea. In it, all the fish of the sea are “caught.” Yet the net is so big it’s impossible to pluck out a fish for dinner. That’s the situation the security agencies find themselves in.
Have you seen the list of words that watch for in electronic communication? It’s about every fourth word written. Everyone becomes a potential terrorist.
The TSA treats everyone like they are carrying a bomb, which is silly. It’s a huge waste of energy, time and money with too wide a focus for ever succeeding. As a social control mechanism it might have some merit -teaching people how to act like sheep. For finding terrorists it has failed 100% of the time.
Maybe they should be like the FBI and make their own. That’s much easier than finding them in the wild. Every “terrorist cell” they’ve busted was nothing without their government informer. He’s the guy with the plans and the connections to weapons and bombs.
Now there are two forces at work here. Some in those spook agencies want to narrow the suspect list to where it’s actually useful for finding potential threats. The problem is that by their very nature, security people are paranoid. They fear someone slipping through their net, so they keep making it bigger.
It’s the same problem with their definition of “threat.” Is it a group of ideologically driven desperate men, AK in one hand while building a bomb with the other? Maybe. Perhaps at one time. The net just keeps on getting bigger and bigger until it scoops up everyone who’s ever said anything bad against the government or those paranoid spook agencies.
Where does this all end? Do we keep going down this path until we live in Orwellian surveillance state where even the word for “freedom” is downgraded. (Wait, has that already happened?) Does the whole system fall apart under the weight of its own bureaucracy? Will it come to an end the way McCarthyism and the Red Scare ended? Back then a few honorable men and women said “for shame” and ended that embarrassing time. The McCarthyism net had gotten too big.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Just as soon as I get the van running on waste vegetable oil we started traveling further. We went to the more distant grocery store, the one with the great produce section. Going to dinner to a nice place 50 miles away is suddenly feasible.
Once I get the trailer hitch installed, hauling the sailboat to bigger bodies of water will no longer be a big deal. With diesel still around $4/gallon here, it is a huge savings.
There’s a meeting coming up with some friends of mine. Most live in southern NH and northern MA. I’m in northern NH. It would cost a lot for all of them to come up here, so I’m heading south. There’s a number of little trips coming up and taking the veggie van is the vehicle of choice.
Of course, the fuel isn’t quite free. Anyone who’s hauled fuel around in jerrycans knows how much of a workout that can be. Still, hauling free fuel around pays better than any other part time job I’ve had. There are filters that occasionally have to be changed. Those cost money but I get thousands of miles out of a $13 filter.
My lovely wife used to work at a job 50 miles away. That was a 100 mile round trip. Sometimes I’d drive her into work, come home, then pick her up at the end of her shift. Is it any wonder we used to put 50,000 miles a year on our car? It was a well paying job, but cheap transportation made it pay even better.
Many of my friends and family are traveling a lot less. Some have even moved closer to work and activities. A few work from home. The price of gas has come down a bit lately, but if your income goes down, it may be too dear to buy at any price. Eventually, the vehicle is used only for essential trips. Actually, one of my friends had his car repossessed and now walks everywhere. Good thing he doesn’t live out in the woods.
I know my situation is unusual. Waste veggie is harder to get and often not free. I’m lucky that mine still is. My guess is that some time in the future, the free fuel situation will go away. When that happens, I’d love to be spending at least half my year on a sailboat. The wind is still free.
Saturday, June 2, 2012
Everything’s a mess, but it’s not as bad as it looks.
Here’s the deal. The veggie system wasn’t running the way it was supposed to. It took a few days to find the problem. Poor engine performance was either due to air leaks or poor fuel supply.
I checked all my connections to see if air was getting into the system. Once that was eliminated as a likely problem it was on to the fuel supply.
In the center of the photo is a different fuel filter set up.
In this photo is the first one I tried. Looks pretty sketchy, but that’s how it goes when reusing old parts. I thought there was a chance that there was old gunk limiting the fuel flow.
Putting in a new filter set up helped, but only a small amount. The last place where the problem could be was somewhere in the fuel tank. Of course, the fuel tank is also a reused component.
At the very base of the white filter (top photo) is where the veggie fuel line comes out of the tank. Notice there’s a 90 degree connector as it comes out of the tank. That’s where the problem was. Bits of filter screen, plastic, metal and odd bits of gunk had nearly plugged the connector. Once cleaned out and reinstalled, everything ran perfect.
Notice the copper coil wrapped around fuel filter. That coil, and the coil inside the fuel tank are formed from soft 3/8 inch copper pipe. The coil in the tank was formed by wrapping the pipe around a 1 gallon paint can. It made a good sized coil. The one around the filter was wrapped around the filter itself. Care is needed to not kink the copper when doing the filter coil. Those coils are what heat the veggie, lowering viscosity and making it work.
1/2 inch coolant hose slips right over the pipe and all I do is clamp it. That saves a small fortune in special connectors. If the hose is too tight, soaking it in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes softens it up enough to stretch out a bit.
Once all the connections checked out, I wrapped up the filter in that silvery insulation to keep the filter hot.
My lovely wife and I did a 52 mile round trip. 50 miles of it were run completely on waste vegetable oil. The van performed well. There’s something almost magical when the hot vegetable oil hit the engine. Detonation knock quiets down and I know it’s working.
That’s when I know I’m saving money and running cleaner.
Friday, June 1, 2012
Job skills: sleeping on the job, breaking and entering, traffic violations, trespassing, kicking people out of their homes, car and house destruction.
I really enjoyed being a Firefighter, but the skills don’t really transfer to the rest of the job market.
There are other career paths with the same problem. EMS people are almost as bad. Their daily chaos with life and death situations imparts a very low tolerance for BS. Great people, but bad employees.
Military people have high unemployment rates. Lots of their skills don’t transfer. Beyond that, after being in a war zone, it must be hard to take cubical life seriously. Military recruiters are so full of crap, saying how military service will make you more valuable to civilian employers. Many employers think: this is a person with PTSD. There are opportunities for post military education, but the benefits are not nearly as generous as they used to be. A vet enters college older and years after someone who went to college right out of High School. He’s already behind on his new career path.
I know I’m not quite right, but I’m fine with that. I probably wasn’t cut out for a 9 to 5 job in the first place. That is one of the reasons the Fire Service attracted me. Leaving that and expecting to live a normal life? Not likely.
Injuries forced me to leave and it was tough to get back into the world. Some days I had to drive my old motorcycle very fast on mountain roads for the adrenalin rush. White water canoing helped. One time I spent a week winter hiking in the mountains -alone. Those things needed to be done.
If you had a life with that sort of adventure and are having a hard time adjusting to the “real world,” accept it as normal. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find a job with the same kind of rush. Perhaps you’ll need a few bad ass hobbies. Sometimes the only cure is postpone the whole career thing completely, perhaps forever. Hike through South America. Go biking in Asia. Sail the world. Accept that you aren’t like other people and go with it. Have an interesting life.
For example, I know an former Navy diver who then entered a Buddhist monastery, left that and worked as a blacksmith and now has graduated from acupuncture school. It’s not the sort of path a High School guidance councilor can plan for you.